Sure, stats can be dull, and of course can be manipulated in many ways to prove different, if not completely opposite, points of view -- but they can also be informative and yes, even fun.
What follows are some team statistics from the WNBA season that not only explain what happened this summer, but might also offer a preview on how the postseason will play out.
Best offense: Minnesota 106.7
This is based on points per possession rather than points per game (obviously). The formula is arbitrarily set to 100, so that teams above 100 are above average, and teams below are, you guessed it, below average.
It’s not really a surprise that the Lynx have the best offense, and clearly to beat them, you have to figure out a way to stop them.
Worst offense: New York 89.6, Connecticut 90.8
Bill Laimbeer got the gang back together, but the gang couldn’t shoot straight. Yes, there were injuries, but a lot of teams had injuries, and had better offenses than the Liberty. Connecticut, too, struggled.
Best defense: Atlanta 91.6
The Dream’s frenetic pace disguises their efficiency at the defensive end. Maybe Armintie Herrington can’t shoot, but she can guard, and that’s how Atlanta wins games.
Worst defense: San Antonio 101.0, Phoenix 100.6, Tulsa 100.1
Throughout this article, the number of teams listed depends on the spread between them. For example, the Dream are considerably better on defense than anyone else; San Antonio, Phoenix and Tulsa are all very close to each other in badness.
Best rebounding percentage: Chicago 53.1%
Raw rebounding numbers don’t tell you nearly as much as this simple percentage. Stat folks add up all the missed shots and figure out which team gets the highest percentage -- and Chicago, thanks to Sylvia Fowles, Elena Delle Donne and Swin Cash, does the best.
Worst rebounding percentage: Connecticut 48.3%, San Antonio 48.4%
Both these teams have good rebounding centers, but little else on the boards. And not surprisingly, both teams aren’t in the playoffs.
Best offensive rebounding percentage: Chicago 31.6%
It may seem like there’s little difference between offensive rebounding and overall rebounding, but all the statistical metrics agree that the highest percentage shots come after offensive rebounds.
Worst offensive rebounding percentage: Phoenix 24.8%
Brittney Griner has many skills, but rebounding is not her strong point. And when it comes to offensive rebounding, she obviously has company on the Mercury roster.
Points off turnovers: Atlanta 18.8
Not all turnovers are created equal. A steal of a crosscourt pass near halfcourt is going to be a layup at the other end. A bad pass that sails out of bounds near the offensive team’s basket results in a normal offensive possession. This number says the Dream get steals that translate into points.
Fewest points off turnovers: New York 11.3
This number says that the Liberty don’t gamble much or don’t play the passing lanes much or lack the speed to convert in the open court.
Opponents’ points off turnovers: Tulsa 17.7, Seattle 17.3
It’s not surprising that Tulsa’s young team makes bad turnovers, but Seattle is known for playing veterans, and Tanisha Wright and Temeka Johnson should do better -- if only getting back downcourt after a mistake is made.
Fewest opponents’ points off turnovers: Chicago 12.9, Indiana 13.0
Credit to Courtney Vandersloot, and Indiana’s veterans.
Points in the paint: Atlanta 39.1, Los Angeles 38.4
We all knew Atlanta couldn’t shoot, and thus had to score inside, but it is a bit of a surprise that the Sparks are so focused inside.
Fewest points in the paint: San Antonio 27.8
I’m a big Jayne Appel fan, but she doesn’t shoot much, and thus doesn’t score much. And Danielle Adams relies on her outside shooting more than post moves.
Opponents’ points in the paint: Connecticut 37.8, San Antonio 37.3
Connecticut’s guards have been ravaged by injury, but their post play has been weak as well -- especially considering they brought back an MVP center in Tina Charles. The Silver Stars’ issues, though, are pretty clearly defined by the last two categories.
Fewest opponents’ points in the paint: New York 28.6
Some good news for Liberty fans. Maybe Kara Braxton does have some value ...
Second chance points: Chicago 13.4
Makes sense that the leader is the same as for offensive rebounding percentage, but I included it because of the next results.
Fewest second chance points: Seattle 9.2, Phoenix 9.3
So even though the Mercury have the worst offensive rebounding percentage, Seattle has fewer second chance points. Odd ...
Opponents’ second chance points: Connecticut 12.4, Tulsa 12.4
“Box out.” Coaches have yelled this since James Naismith nailed up the first basket. The Sun and Shock apparently don’t listen that well.
Fewest opponents’ second chance points: Atlanta 9.4, Seattle 9.9
Another reason the Dream succeed -- and at least if Seattle doesn’t get many second chance points, the Storm don’t give up many either.
Fast break points: Atlanta, Los Angeles, Minnesota 14.0
No surprises here.
Fewest fast break points: Seattle 5.4
That’s 8.6 fewer points a game the Storm gets than the top teams -- and that’s a lot.
Opponents’ fast break points: Tulsa 12.6
“Get back.” Another coaching favorite, and another piece of advice the Shock seem to ignore.
Fewest opponents’ fast break points: Indiana 6.2 (second is 8.4)
The big gap is worth noting, and this number tells me the Fever are well-coached and intelligent. And not allowing easy baskets is a great way to stay in games.
Bench scoring: Washington 24.5, Tulsa 24.2
The Mystics make their first appearance, and credit must be given to Mike Thibault for maximizing his talent. Gary Kloppenburg also does a nice job of utilizing a lot of his roster.
Least bench scoring: Indiana 12.5
Given the Fever’s injuries, they played a lot of games without really having a bench. (And along that line, if injuries really are why Connecticut did so badly this year, how did Indiana still make the playoffs?)